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Coliseum / Cinerama
79 - 97 Eglinton Street


The Coliseum has had a long and complex history, having been rebuilt and repurposed many times over its 100+ year history. It originally opened in 1905 as a  music hall for Moss's Empire, designed by the famous theatre architect, Frank Matcham.

The Coliseum was a late design for Matcham, and had a large auditorium with a small street facade. In a design typical of the period, there were separate entrances for different parts of the building, to ensure high-paying customers for the grand circle did not have to mix with the poorer clientele buying tickets for the gods!

However, in a novel design feature, all customers did have the option to wait in an indoor waiting area, with carpets and seats. The main entrance was for 'Stalls and Boxes' only, with a separate entrance in the octagonal corner stair tower for the 'Grand Tier'.

Originally seating 2,893, the auditorium had two cantilevered balconies, facing an ornate proscenium with decorative panels (noted as 'art panel here' in the original plans!). 



The original plans did include a small 'Operators Box' to the rear of the Grand Circle, and certainly as early as 1911, the 'American Bioscope' was a firm fixture of the programme.


1911 Programme Cover

Programme Page 1

Programme Page 2

Programme Centre Pages

Programme Detail

The Coliseum started showing films full time around 1925, and it was the venue for Glasgow's first showing of a talking picture, in January 1929.

In 1931, due to its popularity, ABC commissioned WR Glen to remodel the building and bring it up to date as a cinema. He removed the original proscenium and stage, and extended the stalls forward to increase seating. At the same time, he made major alterations to both balconies - altering the line of the fronts (making them less of a deep horseshoe than before), and also removing some pillars supporting the upper circle - presumably to improve sightlines. A new larger projection room was constructed at the back of the upper circle, obviously protruding from the front of the building. The new seating was for 3,094.

Exterior photos c1980 courtesy Chris Doak

In 1963, the Coliseum was chosen as Scotland's first - and only - Cinerama theatre. The interior was drastically altered, with a new shell constructed within the existing auditorium. Wall to wall curtains covered the 1930s decoration on the splay walls, and a new checkerboard pattern set within an enormous oval dominated the ceiling.

The upper balcony was partly removed, leaving just a single circle level, and corrugated iron cladding was added to the exterior to modernise its appearance. Seating was now for 1,310.

The opening of the Cinerama was covered by British Pathe News, and a clip from this can be seen here.

The clip shows the enormous auditorium, giant screen, modern projection box at the rear of the stalls complete with mechanical hoists to lift the enormous reels of film, as well as a new bar and double-height foyer.

Cinerama was not a lasting success, and it soon  returned to normal film use. It closed as a cinema in 1980, and lay derelict. In 1986 it was listed Grade B by Historic Scotland.

It was then reopened for County as as a bingo hall in 1987 - it had been sitting empty since closing as a cinema in 1980. As can be seen in the galleries below, the interior was in a poor state, and County stripped out the remains of the Cinerama decoration (and the 1930s decor that still remained in places behind it), and created a new interior for bingo, including a new stalls floor, new splay walls and new suspended ceiling. They also removed the projection box that had been added in the 1930s, and had protruded from the facade, as well as repairing and re-rendering the exterior. Further alterations included blocking off portions of the enormous building which were now surplus to requirements.


Exterior, 1987

Interior, 1987

Exterior,  2006

Interior, 2006
Galleries above courtesy of Bruce Murray

Bingo closed in January 2003, and the building is now sitting derelict and decaying. It changed ownership in early 2006, and as of September 2006, the local council was drawing up an Urgent Repairs notice to ensure it remained wind and watertight.

From photos provided of the building taken in August 2006, it can be seen that unfortunately, very little remains of the original Matcham interior after this catalogue of alterations [Some photos marked (*) courtesy Urban Desertion].

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Tower detail (*)
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Exterior
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1930s Projection
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Pillar detail
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Window
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EMI Cinemas Ltd
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Office bannister
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Office detail
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Office window
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Ceiling detail
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Ceiling detail
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Mirror surround and hatch
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Basement waiting area
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Basement tile detail
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Foyer (*)
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Stairs to circle (*)
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View to Stage
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View to Stage
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Bingo proscenium (*)
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View to balcony
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Bingo - Bar (*)
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Balcony bingo tables (*)
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Balcony bingo tables (*)
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Auditorium ceiling
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Ceiling above gallery
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Gallery side wall

See more pictures of the Coliseum exterior here.
Photo of the cinema from the high flats behind here, courtesy Norrie Mcnamee.

References
Original Matcham plans: Glasgow City Archives 2/389, 1905;  2/1330, 1905; 2/737, 1905; 2/738, 1905
WR Glen Modifications: Glasgow City Archives B4/12/1931/117
Cinerama Alterations: Glasgow City Archives B4/12/1963/6
2006 Interior Gallery: Urban Desertion


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